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Ellen Rakieten Talks The Marriage Ref
Ellen Rakieten, executive producer of Jerry Seinfeld's new show The Marriage Ref offers new details.


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The Marriage Ref will help real couples squash their ongoing arguments.


Notable: Ellen Raikiten has worked as Oprah Winfrey’s executive producer since the show first aired in 1986. After 23 years, Ellen is now embarking on a new project. Joining forces with another big name, Ellen will help comedian Jerry Seinfeld return to NBC with a new show that will address the trivial and comedic fodder of marriage. The show is called "The Marriage Ref" and is tentatively scheduled to premier in March 2010. While busy with the casting process, Ellen spoke to Hitched about the upcoming show.

[1] What can people expect to see with The Marriage Ref?
Marriage and relationships are universal on every front. Everybody plays games and when you're a kid and there's an argument—the ball was in, he was safe, the ball was out—that's why there are umpires, you need a ref. And in marriage you need a ref.

It's a very pro-marriage show. When you can laugh about things, when you can step outside of yourself, a lot of times it's just all silly stuff, but it can balloon into not-so-silly stuff. Make no mistake this is a comedy. Imagine a hybrid of John Stewart and Politically Incorrect—those focus on politics—this show will focus on marriage and relationships.

The way it will be made up is couples will share their marital disputes: quirky things, fun things, serious things, but nothing too serious (domestic violence or anything like that). At home there's really a play-along factor because you're going to be sitting there thinking, "I'm on his side, I'm on her side. I can relate to this." And then there will be a panel of experts, and what we mean by experts is that if you've been in a relationship or married, you're an expert. None of us are really experts. So you're going to have a panel of "experts" made up of celebrities, sports stars, politicians, prominent business people, notables…they'll see the couples arguments and they'll analyze them. There will be one marriage ref who is a comedian (yet to be named), and this marriage ref will take this panel of experts analysis into consideration; there will be a lively debate after you see the couple argument, the marriage ref will take this all into consideration and make the final call of who's right.

[2] Will there be a prize?
There will be a prize. They're prizes that will potentially be related to the fights, but they're fun prizes. Here's the real prize, you're on national TV and you get some bragging rights.

[3] How did the concept of the show come about?
This is straight from Jerry's [Seinfeld] mouth. The way the show happened, Jerry was with his wife in their apartment and they got into a difference of opinion about something and the usual thing starts. A friend of his wife was there. The friend was like, "Maybe I should leave" and Jerry said, "Nope. I'm glad you're here. I want you to referee the difference of opinion. I'll say my side of the story, my wife will say hers and you just call it for one side or the other and we're done with it." And the friend declared a winner, they were done with it and it was fantastic.

[4] Has working on Oprah for so many years and seeing the struggles and successes of real life couples influenced your approach to this show?
Of course, everything I learned at Oprah will be applied to everything I do. I'm not really sure how to answer that except to say that working for Oprah for all those years I learned every single solitary thing about human relationships possible. So the answer is yes, it influenced everything.

[5] You're still casting, what type of couples are you looking for?
We want all age groups: newlyweds, married for 20 years, but bring that thing that makes you crazy about the person you're married to. We're having fun. This isn't a show where we're going to exploit anybody. This isn't a show where people are going to be made fun of. Jerry Seinfeld has, I think, the platinum standard. If you want to be a part of a great new Jerry Seinfeld venture, this would be a great time for you to come out. The quirkier, the funnier, the more opinionated or serious—nothing is too small.

[6] Can you give us an example of some disputes you've already seen through casting?
We have a great couple right now, they're adorable and he has this dream of being a rapper. And she's like, you're 35 give it up. We have another couple where he makes her crazy because he takes his wedding ring off at certain times. We have another couple where a husband came home with bleach blond hair. We have another couple where she doesn't like how he chews, she doesn't like how he orders.

[7] Any final thoughts about the show?
When you look at Seinfeld, that was really his ode to the single world. He is now married 10 years with three children and this is really what his life is about now. Seinfeld was the exploration of single life, and now that he's married and living in that world, he wants this show to be the same kind of high quality exploration of the married experience. This show is very New York based. Seinfeld is representative of New York and we'll be doing this show out of New York; and New York needs to represent.


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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.



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